What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the word LIKE?
Until very recently, LIKE, for me, was the lukewarm, shy cousin of LOVE.
“I like you” was merely a regulator, a milestone on the path to saying “I love you”. Of course it also means to favour something (not just someone) but personally, I find that there is something quite vanilla-ish in the word Like, some reservedness or lack of passion, almost banal.
And then almost overnight LIKE took a massive turn. From linguistic mundane LIKE has evolved to be a currency, a clickable human gesture, a mass behavior (I wonder how many global LIKEs are clicked every day).
Of the many things and stuff we LIKE everyday now, naturally, one very interesting area to research this new behaviour is the relationships between people and brands. Who would have thought two years ago that LIKE will evolve to be a desired behaviour featured as comms target on clients’ briefs.
It might seems like just as a semantic turn but to me it feels as if something in the (symbolic) power relations between people and brands has slightly changed in the shift from “Become a Fan” to “Like”. ‘Like’, until recently, was a gesture kept to our friends’ status or a photo etc. Today, brands overtly want people to like them. Turns out it’s good for business
Don’t you find it a bit ingratiating and even forced? I can’t help seeing something approval-seeking in ‘Like’ in this context.
With Become a Fan it was different. Become a fan is like an invite to a membership of a club or a community. Now I just have to LIKE you. A bit of a downgrade if you see what I mean?
This is exactly the point where the whole “brands are like people” becomes a bit odd. This is why I’m a bit ambiguous with the culture of “Like-bribing” – Like as a condition, requirement we have to fulfill in order to get into your world.
No LIKE – no in!
So when everyone gone crazy about how Nike made it big in ‘digital’ (and social!) by hiding the new World Cup ad behind the Like button, like Andy, I really found it quite cheeky. We’ll let you see our new (a-may-zing BTW) ad only if you’ll like us (AND of course, not only that, you will have to tell all your friends that you LIKE us.)
Brands are like people, they say. But Nike you’d all agree is like the coolest boy (or girl) in the class. People like him anyway for who he is and what it does. Surely if he throws a party he won’t ask people to like him in order to get in? No, that’s totally uncool. He will let everyone in first and only after everyone had a good time he will quietly enjoy seeing his popularity rates go even higher.
There are very few brands that can get away with that (that’s true to all ‘forced -into-newsfeed’ interactions, e.g Massive Attack’s Tweather. If your content is good I’ll talk about it but it’s quite rude to ask people to help you with your marketing before you even showed them what you’ve got. Nike should have had more confidence in the quality of the content (hell, it’s the best ad of the year so far) for it to earn them Likes without making it a condition for viewing. My verdict: not on-brand.
On the other hand there are other equations, other Like practices which I find far more appealing. The best example is Hyper’s recent campaign for Pedigree adoption drive. The value proposition was totally different – here we asked people to Like Pedigree and for every Like, pedigree donated 50p to dogs’ rescue centres around the country. People’s Likes were a symbolic invitation to do good on people’s behalf. (Of course Zizek would argue that this is just as manipulative as the Nike behaviour but hey, I’m not a new-communist cultural theorist, and I like good, clever or awesome marketing)
So to conclude the ramblings everyone and everything around us want you to like them today. The meaning and value of ‘Like’ will keep evolving in interesting ways. I wonder if it will stick. Or perhaps it will quickly loose it’s novelty and become so ubiquitous and banal it will eventually be meaningless.
What do you think?